Will Russia skip 2016 nuclear summit?

The White House isn't confirming that Russia intends to boycott the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, potentially dealing a major blow to President Obama’s nonproliferation legacy.

Diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press that Russian envoys skipped last week's initial planning for the summit, and that Moscow would be a no-show for the 2016 meeting, which is aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe.


On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t say if Russia would be a no-show at the next biannual conference.

“The United States regrets Russia's decision not to participate in last week's preparatory meeting for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit,” he told reporters during a daily briefing. “As far as the United States is concerned, the door remains open to Russia joining future meetings like this.”

Earnest said the administration hopes the Kremlin “still shares the view that [securing] loose nuclear materials and combating the threat of nuclear terrorism remains a priority led with the personal attention of world leaders.”

The president convened the first international summit in Washington in 2010. The last conference, held this year at The Hague, saw 35 countries promise to codify international rules on nuclear security into domestic law and new offers from Japan, Italy and Belgium to reduce their nuclear material.

A Russian boycott could mark a new low in the already tense relationship between Washington and Moscow. Relations have been near a nadir since Russia annexed Crimea earlier this year and more recently as the Kremlin has flown military aircraft into European airspace and recognized a controversial election by pro-Russia rebels in Eastern Ukraine.

Earnest said the impact of Western sanctions on Russia is “something that was regularly reviewed by the president's team here at the White House.”

“There's a basic international norm at stake here, and that norm is that it's not appropriate for big countries to interfere with smaller countries that happen to be on their border; that other sovereign countries should have the opportunity, their citizens should have the opportunity to determine their future,” he told reporters.

Despite the ongoing tension, Washington and Moscow are continuing to work together on reaching a deal on halting Iran’s illicit nuclear effort, destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and maintaini the International Space Station, according to Earnest.